Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Stories Behind Juergen Teller's Best Shots

German fashion and art photographer Juergen Teller, armed with his Contax G2 camera as always, shared six of his top photos with The Telegraph. From bathing in a geothermal lagoon with Björk to nerve-wracking moments with convict OJ Simpson, Teller tells us the interesting anecdotes behind each irregular image.

The Little Blighter: Björk and son

‘I had the pleasure of visiting Björk and her son in September 1993 in Iceland. As soon as I saw him, I was fascinated by how similar they looked. Björk was an excellent host, cooked at her home and showed me around. Of course we went to the Blue Lagoon where we made this picture. We were all in the water, and a second after I took this photo, the boy splashed my camera full of water. There’s tons of salt in those hot springs, so I wasn’t too happy about it. But I knew I had a good picture, and forgave him pretty quickly.’

‘Only God knows’: OJ Simpson
‘I had to think twice whether I wanted to photograph O J Simpson. But back then [in 2000], I was just too curious. A very intimidating man was standing in front of my hotel room. A giant, his first question was, “You’re a famous fashion photographer: how are the models?” A little nervous, I replied, “They’re good.” Then he said he had a woman upstairs in his room for an hour and a half, you know what I mean. Then he’d be hungry, and after that we’d be able to take pictures. Later the woman joined us on the terrace – pretty, young, blonde, very German, I thought. I started photographing him, two cameras, one in each hand, and suddenly out of nowhere he asked me, “Juergen, who do you think did it?” I couldn’t believe my ears, shaking, kept on taking photos, until the sound of my cameras, rewinding the film, stopped me from hiding behind them. I said, “O J, I’ve got no idea, I wasn’t there.” He screamed with laughter, put his hands on his head, raised them towards the sky and said, “Only God knows.” At that point I wanted to leave as soon as possible, felt scared and really awkward. But I still had to pick up his kids from school with him and buy school uniforms. OJ was determined to go out with me in the evening – he thought I had lots of cash. Luckily I was able to escape, sweating, until I reached the airport.’

The Strong Man and the Crocodile: Schwarzenegger

‘At six o’clock in the morning the hotel phone rang. Back in 2000, I didn’t have a mobile phone. You couldn’t imagine that today. “Servus, Juergen, Arnold here,” he said in broad Austrian. “Thought I’d give you a call and tell you my idea.” Completely groggy, I thought his ideas were good too. So, I had to get up at four o’clock the next morning to go up some mountain in Malibu. There I waited for Arnold Schwarzenegger. The sun rose, and he rode elegantly past me like a cowboy on his horse. It was sultry, dusty – I was totally wiped out. Picture taken. Then I had to climb back down on my own. Later in his office I said, “I’ve got an idea too now, Arnold, climb into the crocodile’s mouth.” “Juergen, for you I’d do anything.”’

Beaming Ed: My son

‘Straight after the funeral of my friend and agent Katy Baggott, who had died suddenly, I had to think what would come next in my column. I needed something positive and realised pretty quickly I’d use my son, smiling in the bathtub. It’s good to keep yourself occupied at times like this and continue working. I had a lot to do, a museum show in Madrid and two perfume campaigns – all of it organised by Katy. But above all, it’s good just to do normal things with the family. Only this morning I had to change the sheets because Ed had peed the bed. Normally that gets on my nerves, but today it was nice.’

Things in Common: William Eggleston

‘I took this picture in William Eggleston’s hometown of Memphis. We’ve been friends for a long time now. For me he’s a real artist, who really just does what he wants, whether it’s in life or in his work. Years ago, when I first met him in Memphis, he had the idea to go on a road trip with me in Bavaria. I couldn’t believe it, just meeting him having been an admirer for so long. Three weeks later, we found ourselves in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, both with cameras around our necks. We drank a lot, ate liver dumpling soup, and ended up not taking a single photograph. William said to me, “We have a few things in common – smoking, drinking and women. Photography just gets us out of the house.”’

The Screaming Chef: Ramsay and Hockney

‘The Royal Academy magazine had the idea to organise a lunch to talk about art and food. Guests were the artists David Hockney and Allen Jones, the Michelin-star chef Gordon Ramsay and me. We ate in the kitchen of Ramsay’s restaurant at Claridge’s in London. I was looking forward to it. We were all on time and I was getting on well with David, going outside and smoking cigarettes together. Allen and I knew each other already. Ramsay arrived an hour and 20 minutes late. I thought, being well brought up as I am, you just can’t let these old people wait for so long, they need something to eat. Even so, we were enjoying talking about photography and painting. Suddenly Ramsay appeared, only to leave again. Finally lunch started and I have to say we were impressed by the food, and every dish came with a different wine. Ramsay then joined us again, sat himself down, cut off David mid-sentence and launched into a monologue about what he thought art was. The three of us couldn’t believe it. Near the end of the meal, Ramsay stood up and started screaming at me – calling me a lazy -------- and telling me to finally take a photograph or two instead of just eating his food. We were shocked. I got up and said: “Listen – sit down and shut up!” I pressed the shutter once and that was it.’

(Pictures: Juergen Teller, via Lomography and The Telegraph)

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